Let there be light
On a Tuesday afternoon, the Ontario legislature is brightly lit by massive chandeliers. That’s what the debate is all about: light and the electricity to run the province. MPPs have gathered to debate Bill C-67 that will prevent the 6,000 members of the Power Workers Union from going on strike. Without this bill, there could be rolling blackouts as workers shut down nuclear and hydro facilities.
But there is also a strict legislative process that must be followed. With unanimous consent, the bill could pass immediately. The NDP has refused such consent saying it would never halt collective bargaining. As a result, even with a special sitting last night, debate could run all week. And so bill C-67 is introduced by Labour Minister Laurie Scott who shares her one-hour allotted time with Energy Minister Greg Rickford and Premier Doug Ford. Ford opens on an odd note, saying that afternoon sittings are far different from those in the morning because the afternoon is “silly season” when interventions by MPPs go off track.
But the premier soon rights the ship and lists those who would be impacted by brownouts such as community centres, hockey rinks and long-term care residences. Who could be in favour of hurting them? He concludes by wishing season’s greetings to all MPPs, including the opposition, saying that he hopes they all return healthy after the holidays since good health is what matters most in life, perhaps a reference to the death by cancer at a young age of his bother, Rob.
You never know exactly what kind of speech Premier Ford will deliver when he rises in his place. Today’s effort opened with derision but ended with a non-partisan, even kindly, homily. He made an effort to appeal to everyone’s better angels. If an election were held today, the Conservatives would likely win another majority because even while Ford’s base might fret about his tone from time to time, they sure support what he’s doing.
Update: In what must be the least reported story of the season, Bill C-67 passed on Thursday December 20. Premier Ford was not present for the final vote.